BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jul 6th, 1999 •

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Image Entertainment, 1947

Stephen King fans will be alarmed to see the story RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION owes so much to this gritty, often frightening prison-break film noir. The inmates of Cell R-17 cherish a glamour portrait of an unknown model. It’s to remind them of the different women they went to prison for. The R-17 inmates (including Burt Lancaster as a tough young upstart and Charles Bickford as a cynical urbane lifer) are planning a breakout. Their most dangerous enemy is Munsey, the soft spoken, sadistic chief of security. Many BRUTE FORCE moments will still overcome DVD viewers with chills. In one scene, an inmate who’s an informant for Munsey becomes the helpless, screaming victim of a blowtorch attack. Later on, while a classical record plays in the background, a t-shirt clad Munsey tortures an inmate who may or may not be part of the breakout (Just the way Hume Cronyn smacks the poor guy around, while talking in low-lullaby tones will give anybody the creeps!)*

The break out scene has the honest tension of taking part in a plan that is sure to have painful, fatal results. Image Entertainment put out this DVD with an incredible transfer. Freeze frames of Cinematographer William Daniels’ detailed black and white work here is worthy of any art gallery. Oliver Stone cites BRUTE FORCE as an influence for his prison break climax in NATURAL BORN KILLERS. The crisp dialog written by screenwriter and future director Richard Brooks is memorable. Example: Bickford about a shiftless dreamer lifer: “He’s breaking out next Tuesday. He’s said that about every Tuesday for the last fifteen years. Fifteen years from now, he’ll still be saying ‘Next Tuesday”.” Not to be missed.

Hume Cronyn and FIR's editor at the DW Griffith Awards ceremony early in 1990.

* Editor’s note: At the 1989 NBR Awards Gala (then called The DW Griffith Awards, held early in 1990), Hume Cronyn and his wife, Jessica Tandy, were the co-hosts. After the event I cornered Cronyn and complimented him on his performance in BRUTE FORCE. He smiled at me conspiratorially and said, “That was the real me.”

Directed by Jules Dassin
Produced by Mark Hellinger
Written by Richard Brooks

Burt Lancaster,
Hume Cronyn,
Charles Bickford
Yvonne DeCarlo.

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